Thursday, November 18, 2010

William Tell

Legend says that the Swiss hero William Tell shot the apple from his son’s head on this day in 1307. Tell is a hero in Switzerland, and the tale is oft-told (some variant tellings pre-dating the Tell legend), but not as P. G. Wodehouse tells it in William Tell Told Again:
Once upon a time, more years ago than anybody can remember, before the first hotel had been built or the first Englishman had taken a photograph of Mont Blanc and brought it home to be pasted in an album and shown after tea to his envious friends, Switzerland belonged to the Emperor of Austria, to do what he liked with….
William Tell Told Again (1904) is a collaboration, the prose telling by Wodehouse accompanied by a second telling in verse by John W. Houghton, and a third in color illustrations by Philip Dadd. Below, Houghton’s lines describing the key moment when Tell explains to the tyrannous Austrian Governor, Hermann Gessler (the “G.” of line 2) why he had pulled not one but two arrows from his quiver:

But, as the arrow cleft the core,
Cried G. with indignation,
"What was the second arrow for?
Come, no e-quiver-cation!
You had a second in your fist."
Said Tell, the missile grippin',
"This shaft (had I that apple missed)
Was meant for you, my pippin!"

Source: Today in Literature

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